Australian Wine Companion 2012 Edition by James Halliday

In the beginning was the word...

By Robyn Lewis
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Australian Wine Companion 2012 Edition

Australian Wine Companion 2012 Edition [©Hardie Grant]


The Australian Wine Companion 2012 is the definitive guide to Australian wine. It contains tasting notes by James Halliday and his team – including rising star and heir apparent Ben Edwards – to over 60,000 wines, with ratings and reviews of 2,500 wineries, around half of those currently existing in Australia.

Published in late July every year, ‘the Companion’, as it is colloquially known, is a much anticipated tome, with wine investors and bargain hunters in particular rushing to the bottle shops endeavouring to snap up bottles of prize-winning wines before the merchants put their prices up (an increasingly unlikely occurrence, as some stores appear to have advance notice).

The winners are already well known, and the winery of the year, Kooyong and Port Phillip Estates (separate vineyards with the same owners, winemaker and winery) located at Red Hill in the heart of Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula, has been basking in glory for months. So, to the book itself.

The introduction to the Companion is wide ranging, covering the recent increased variability in weather, surplus international production and competition, the corporate grocery duopoly, the cancer risk of moderate alcohol consumption and wine taxation. All vexed questions which will continue to face the Australian wine industry into 2012.

Halliday employs a ranking system for wineries that have been exceptional over decades, rather than years, and a guide to the best variety in each region, which is useful information in the search for a good bottle of wine for any occasion. His Top 100 list always arouses comment and competition, and the ’10 dark horses’ are wineries to look out for.

The Companion is a user-friendly tome, that despite its size is light enough to take with you when visiting wine regions. There is a section on “How to use this book”, a snapshot of the Australian 2011 vintage including the impact of heavy or untimely rainfall and floods (not all regions were impacted, notably Margaret River and much of Tasmania), best of the best by variety with scores for each, up and coming wines and wineries.

A notable exclusion is Glaetzer-Dixon Wines of the Coal River Valley, which surprised the wine world by taking the 50th Jimmy Watson Trophy to Tasmania. They, and many other smaller winemakers, appear on the website (The book would be far too large were they all included.)

There is also a section on special value wines and two pages of recent vintage charts by region. Halliday also has also authored a junior sibling: 1001 Wines Under $20, retailing for RRP A$24.95.

As its name suggests, this is a valuable companion in the ongoing search for great Australian wines.


Australian Wine Companion 2012 by James Halliday is published by Hardie Grant Books (Melbourne, 2011; sc, 775 pp) and retails for RRP A$36.95. An e-book version has been promised.

There is also an iPhone app available on iTunes for A$14.99, but note that this does not have the same content as the book; it contains over 69,000 tasting notes but not the lists, preface or several other selections. Full tasting notes are in the book. See reviews on iTunes for guidance.


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November 09th, 2011
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